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NFL Stars Take Issue With Criticisms Over Sam’s Coming Out

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

While some believe that defensive lineman Michael Sam's coming out will negatively impact his chances of being drafted by the National Football League this May, football players Donte' Stallworth and Chris Kluwe say otherwise.

A number of people have come forward, including eight anonymous NFL officials, to say that Sam's announcement will hurt his chances of being drafted because a team is not going to want to deal with the media scrutiny that comes with having football's first openly gay player.

Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards made headlines Monday for questioning if a team can handle the attention.

"He's bringing baggage into your locker room," Edwards said. "Can the players handle the media attention they are going to get, when they get the question asked, 'are you okay with a gay teammate?'"

Responding to Edwards' statements, retired NFL receiver Donte Stallworth, who last played for the New England Patriots, went on a Twitter rant Monday, defending Sam, saying if a team can't handle the media attention of having an openly gay player, then "your team is already a loser on the field," the Huffington Post reports.

"There are a multitude of issues that can arise in the long duration of an NFL season... some on the field, some off the field," Stallworth wrote. "You won’t have any idea what that on the field/off the field situation is until it’s already upon you and the entire organization..."

"Which means that with drafting Michael Sam, you get a jump start on controlling the "media coverage" right from the onset," he went on to say. "If an organization is inept to the magnitude of not being able to control things with prior knowledge, how will you handle the unexpected?"

You can read the athlete’s full Twitter tirade over at HuffPo.

But Stallworth wasn’t alone in his criticism. LGBT rights advocate and former NFL punter Chris Kluew, who knew about Sam’s plan to come out, voiced similar opinions, HuffPo reports in a separate article.

Kluwe, along with other athletes, celebrated Sam’s coming out at a party in Los Angeles Sunday night, where the athlete spoke with HuffPo about Sam’s announcement.

"I tried to tell Michael about basically what he’s going to be facing in the NFL, what the locker room is going to be like. ... Essentially just try and stay as relaxed as possible, and trust in the fact that you can play football well, you can play at a very high level -- that’s why you’ve gotten to this point -- so block out the other stuff as much as you can and keep doing what you know how to do," he said.

Reacting to the Sports Illustrated article about eight anonymous NFL execs saying Sam’s football career may be hurt after coming out, Kluwe said he wasn’t surprised by the comments. He said he predicted that an out athlete would most likely face opposition from the front office and coaching staff, rather than the actual players, who tend to be older and more traditional.

"You can look at all those quotes that were said in that article," he said. "They could very easily have been lifted from a paper right around the time Jackie Robinson was entering Major League Baseball. They’re almost word for word. It’s like, wait a minute, we’ve had this struggle before. We already know how it turns out, why are we doing this again?"

Kluwe also took issue with the coach who said an out player would be a "distraction" because teams are constantly dealing with other players’ personal problems, ranging from dating to legal issues.

"One thing I thought was really interesting was the very word ’distraction,’" he told HuffPo. "You see that used a lot by the front office and coaching. It’s very similar to how the word ’thug’ was used when Richard Sherman was the topic of conversation. It seems that this word distraction is code for, I don’t really like the idea of a gay player on my team, but I know I can’t come out and say that, so I’ll use the word ’distraction’ instead."

Sam made headlines Sunday when he told a number of media outlets, like ESPN and the New York Times, that he is gay.

"I am an openly, proud gay man," he told ESPN. "It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL."


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